Registered dietitians offer their tips for how you can eat healthy–even on days when you don't feel like cooking.
Back-Up Plans For Non-Cooking Days
It’s not difficult to find recipes, cooking tips and kitchen hacks all over the internet, all of which are supposed to make getting a meal on the table quicker and easier. But where are the tips for the nights when you just don’t feel like cooking? As the Seamless ads that I see everywhere remind me on a daily basis, ordering take-out is the norm for many Americans. How can you still eat healthy when you don’t feel like spending time in the kitchen? I asked some registered dietitians this very question; here’s what they had to say.
Start With Veggies
“My go-to guideline when I don’t prepare my own food is to start with veggies,” says Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, CDN, a New York City-based dietitian and creator of CitNutritionally.com. It’s pretty easy to go to a restaurant (or drive-thru window) and order a burger, burrito or pizza that’s devoid of any nutrients. Instead, when ordering out, ask yourself what veggies are in your dish of choice. If the answer is that there aren’t any, choose a different option.
Visit The Freezer Aisle
Before you pick up the phone or open an app to order take-out, check the freezer aisle. There are plenty of minimally processed and good-for-you options available these days, like Dr. Praeger’s veggie burgers, Lean Cuisine meals and Luvo frozen meals. “Look for [options] that have whole grains, lean protein and veggies,” says Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, founder of Small Bites by Jessica. She also adds that you might as well pick up a few bags of frozen veggies while you’re hanging out in the freezer aisle.
Stock The Pantry
You know that age-old myth that says the healthiest items are on the outside perimeter of the supermarket? While that’s partly true, it overlooks the canned and dried beans, legumes and whole grains you can find within the supermarket aisles. Levinson suggests keeping your pantry stocked with these items for nights when you don’t feel like cooking. “You can make a meal in under 30 minutes from whole grain or bean-based pastas, canned fish, some veggies and olive oil.” (Like this Nicoise Pasta Salad.)
Don’t Be Afraid Of Substitutions
When you’re eating out, don’t be scared to ask the waiter for slight substitutions to your meal. Usually, the chef will be more than happy to oblige. “You can ask for sauce on the side, whole grain bread instead of white, or a side salad in place of something else,” says Registered Dietitian Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN, LD. You can also ask them to go easy on the butter or salt or substitute in a salad for fries.
Drink Extra Water
“Dining out (or ordering in) often means you’re eating more salt than usual, so staying hydrated is of the utmost importance,” says Amer. When going to fast, casual restaurants, bring your favorite water bottle or ask for a small cup that you can fill with water. If you’re sitting down at a restaurant, ask the waiter to keep the water flowing.
When All Else Fails: Breakfast Is Delicious Any Time Of Day!
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve eaten cereal, eggs and smoothies for dinner on numerous occasions. Breakfasts foods tend to be really simple to put together and are usually packed with nutrients. Just make sure that if you choose something carb-heavy, like cereal, you add some protein and healthy fats, like milk, fruit and nuts. Another great well-balanced option is a microwaved sweet potato with scrambled eggs on top.